Charlie Cole is the Global Chief eCommerce Officer at Samsonite and the Chief Digital Officer at Tumi. He shared with me the biggest challenge for Tumi’s marketing funnel: competing with massive marketplaces such as Amazon.
“How do you manage an ecosystem that includes both the market place and branded websites? If you are just on amazon.com or just have tumi.com, you’re missing a lot of the conversation. Think about how that is going to evolve globally. ...These companies that are out there are just massive, and competing with them on a dollar to dollar basis is impossible,” Charlie says.
Because of Amazon’s enormous marketing budget, Tumi focuses on getting consumers onto tumi.com and into their brick and mortar stores. The benefits are that the the direct margin is better than wholesale margins, there is greater customer satisfaction, and lifetime value is higher when directly purchased from Tumi.
So I asked Charlie which acquisition and conversion tactics have worked well for Tumi and Samsonite - and which ones haven't worked so well over the last year.
"In the US, Facebook and paid search are king and queen, and probably prince and princess."
Using Amazon "If you think about what makes marketing really effective today, it’s having access - being able to leverage a lot of consumer data. And no one has more consumer data that Facebook, Google and Amazon." His competitors (Louis Vuitton and Away Travel) don't sell on Amazon, so it's an area to hit hard.
What's still in the works
Pintrest "As a consumer, when I see the advertising I’m like - I feel like this should work. But it just never has for us. It’s just one of those areas that I’d love to get better at. I’d stop short of saying I’d never do it again, but it’s up there.”
LinkedIn because of its risky massive minimums - like $25,000 - to get started. He still feels ambitious to get it figured out.
"We need to get better at video advertising, but I also think the YouTubes of the world have to figure out how to make it more effective. ...No one is extremely good at creating content for people, and the ad options that are given to you by the marketplace still aren't great yet."
Browser Notifications "I have a real love/hate with [them]. I never want to be 'that company,' but they've been effective. [We're] trying to do it in a customer appropriate way, I never want anyone to feel duped."
What didn't work
Co-registration and spammy affiliates
Since personalization is such a hot topic, I also asked Charlie how personalization is being utilized to increase Tumi conversions online.
Machine learning to send personalized messages was his first on his list. Next was honing in on-site personalization with the use of browser history.
"There’s no reason to guess, if you have a good amount of data on a consumer, what you should show them next. I think using machine learning there is an obvious one."
What does Charlie wish existed? A great product that could, "Easily, EASILY tie one consumer to multiple devices - have a single view of that individual consumer shopping from his iPhone, tablet, laptop." He predicts that the mobile experience and device driven personalization will improve over time.
He also has grand ideas for the mixing of customer service and personalization. Product segmentation and customer service options are two of his most wielded weapons to win over consumers from Amazon. “I really believe that machine learning and customer service is a big deal. And it’s an area where we can make a big difference.” He method of matching the consumer's phone number to their email address, and therefore their purchase history equips the customer service agent with more info than they would have originally had.
“If there’s one thing that I would love to optimize for myself and for all of our customers, it’s time. I’d love to have them have less time to get what they want. It’s a big opportunity for [Tumi] and to differentiate from [our] competitors."
Charlie Cole can be found on LinkedIn HERE
Listen to the audio version here (video is below):
Have the Apple Podcast App? Subscribe here!
Video transcript for Charlie Cole
Britney: This is "Faces of Growth." And I'm Britney. And I have with me today Charlie Cole, with Tumi and Samsonite. And, Charlie, I'll go ahead and let you take it from here. Why don't you go ahead and tell us about yourself and what you're responsible for now? How you landed in...how is your contribution measured?
Charlie: Got it. So, my name is Charlie, as mentioned. Our company is probably a little...it's very obvious to people in some ways, but our structure is probably not very obvious. So, I was the Chief Digital Officer at Tumi. Tumi was acquired by a holding company called Samsonite. Now, I think when people think about Samsonite, they think about the brand Samsonite. But as a company structure, I always tell people we're a lot more like Procter & Gamble. So, we own brands like Tumi, Samsonite, eBags, Speck, American Tourister, Gregory, Hartmann. So, we really are like a portfolio company. And my role is kind of global P&L management of all of our digital touch points.
So, we sell directly. We have sites like samsonite.com, and tumi.co.uk, and tumi.cn. So, all of that, rolls up to me globally. And then also, all of our, kind of let's call it third party digital relationships, like Amazon, Tmall, JD.com etc. So, all of that rolls up to me. And how I'm sort of evaluated is based on kind of overall P&L performance both from a revenue and profitability perspective.
Britney: Okay. You've had a number of different leadership roles in so many different companies. And I'm curious, like, did you ever experience imposter syndrome, even in the beginning of your career as you've moved your way up the ladder?
Charlie: Yeah. You know, I'm not sure anybody knows it at the time. But kind of hindsight 20/20, I would think anybody that's self-aware enough would say that to a certain point, they didn't really know what they were doing and certain kind of areas of their business. I mean, for me, I think back to kind of my first corporate role. I mean, corporate is sort of an arbitrary term. But when I was running ecommerce at Lucky brand, I was 25 years old. And I had really only, up to that point, focused on digital marketing. So, you know, you end up rounding out your other areas of functional expertise over time. But I certainly didn't know how to be a digital merchant at the time. I certainly didn't know a whole lot about on-site usability. And you can kind of learn. But as long as you kind of stay open-minded, you can be a pretty effective leader. So, I'm not sure I ever...at the time, I'm not sure I ever really felt like as an imposter. But looking back at those roles, I certainly was kind of like I didn't fully know what I was doing, which I think is natural as you kind of evolve through a role.
Britney: Yeah. What would you say to the marketer that might feel that way?
Charlie: I go back to that point of self-awareness. You know, for me, kind of a major barometer of whether or not am gonna want to work with someone, be friends with someone, is based on their knowing who they are and who they aren't, you know. And so, if you are a digital marker and you're kind of being thrust into more of a full P&L ownership role, with far more functional areas of responsibility, you know, find people that are smarter than you that can work with you and teach you would be my number one recommendation. But that can only happen if you're willing to kind of take inventory of your own faculties and figure out where you may not be the strongest. And I think the only real definition of intelligence or stupidity, at this point, is being willing to admit where you need help. Because if you're not willing to do that, you're probably a pretty dumb person. Like when you strip off all the layers of intelligence and education and all that sort of stuff, everybody is going to need support.
And, you know, one of my favorite statistics that my friends have heard me spout off ad nauseam is if you were to look at the Fortune 500 CEOs in the world, or like the largest CEOs in the world, you know, with the biggest companies, the most successful companies, you know, how many of them are truly the founders of that business? Right? And so, you know, that's just kind of a way of talking about the evolution of companies. You need to kind of support people around the journey of company progression with people, frankly, that are better than you at things. And so, that would be my number one recommendation.
Britney: Yeah. Do you have mentors right now? And if so, who are they? Or where do you find...
Charlie: Yeah. Oh my gosh, yeah. So, to answer your second question, I'd say, "Where do I find them?" I think mentors are sort of people you almost collect over time. At least that's how it's been for me. But the two or three that really leap to mind are Tarang Amin was our CEO Schiff Nutrition. He's now the CEO at e.l.f. Cosmetics. He taught me a lot about what I was just kind of saying about kind of knowing your strengths, knowing your weaknesses. I'll never forget one of my first conversations with Tarang. It was my first time in a CPG company. You know, Schiff Nutrition was a classic consumer packaging company. And Tarang had been the global head of Clorox, for goodness sake. Like this guy, you know, was certainly not new to CPG. And he said to me....he was like, you know, "Charlie, look, you don't know anything about CPG. And I don't know anything about selling stuff online. And so, if we can take the time to learn from each other, like we can do something really special." And it was such a simple comment, but it really embodied that point of view that I was just sharing with you, which is, you know, let's each learn from each other on personal strengths, and then we'll be able that much better as a team. So, Tarang taught me a lot about that.
And then I worked...my CEO at Tumi, Jerome Griffith, is somebody else I really consider a mentor. And what Jerome taught me is how to kind of manage and grow a company that had a very strong heritage. Like Tumi it kind of...the thing I love about working with Tumi and for Tumi is, when you say Tumi to someone who's used the product, their eyes light up, and they say, like, "Oh my gosh. I love Tumi." Right? There's this heritage of the product itself. But Jerome had to evolve this company that it's such a set heritage. And in order to do so, it meant progression can be really hard. Like I mean, making progress is a really challenging thing. And so, he taught me a lot about where to embrace the history and embrace a culture, and where to kind evolve a culture.
And then, the last person...I only worked with him for six months, but he's just an amazing evaluator of talent and people is Dan Levitan. Dan is the managing partner at Maveron. And just watching Dan...and really what a venture capital firm does, is they invest in people. You know, they invest in founders that they kind of think are gonna be effective. And watching Dan's progression of talking to founders and talking to potential investments, and kind of seeing how he thinks, and seeing how he involves his partners around him, I just think Dan was one of the more thoughtful evaluators of talent I've ever really seen.
So, you know, I found those all just kind of through my career and kind of collected them. And then, I think your job as the mentee is to just kind of keep in contact with them. Right? Which, in the digital world today, that's not that hard. It's just a matter of a little bit of effort. And it doesn't need to be like a weekly phone conversation. You know, I might email these guys twice a year. Or, if I really need support, thought and I have to talk to them over the phone, they'd be willing to get on the phone like that. So, making those genuine connections with people throughout your career that you know, again, are better than you at certain things, I think is probably of the number one thing about having a great mentor.
Britney: Yeah. And I'm assuming that you are a mentor to other people as well, right?
Charlie: Yeah, I would think so. You know, formally, only probably a half dozen people have asked me in that context. But, you know, I think mentoring is really...it's as much of a verb as it is a noun. Somebody might ask me for advice twice a week, but they don't necessarily put a Post-it note of mentor on my chest. You know what I mean? So, it's kind of a constant evolution of just sort of networking. And if you are in a position to give advice from your history, I think that's a really powerful thing.
Britney: Yeah. So, with all the leadership that you've had and all the mentoring that you've received, what would you say is the biggest takeaway piece of advice for other leaders out there?
Charlie: You know, I think it's...I'll answer with a bit of a cliché that I'll then unpack a bit. It really is a sort of never stop learning. And I don't love clichés as a general term. But if you think about just ecommerce, right? I mean I started in ecommerce in the year 2004, which is it's crazy if you think the next year, it'll be 15 years that I've been in this professional world, which just makes you feel old. But, you know, just think about everything that's happened since 2004 in ecommerce. Right? Like, in 2004, like, branded websites were still very small. Demandware didn't exist yet. And when you think about like the major ecommerce platforms, Shopify was not even a glint in someone's eye. Amazon was selling books. You know, like I just think it was such a different time. And so, if you get set in your ways and you stop paying attention, and you stop trying to think about what's really happening in the world, it's a real...you're gonna fail.
And so, you know, here we are in 2018, I think the big question now is, "How do you manage an ecosystem that includes both the marketplaces and branded websites?" Right? So, I think if you are just an amazon.com, or if you just have tumi.com, you're missing a lot of the conversation. And then, think about how that's going to evolve globally. A lot of the arms race has been driven by who's going to be the number one payment provider? Like in China, there's really an arms race between like Alipay and WeChat Pay. Here in the U.S., you see Google Pay, Apple Pay, Amazon Pay. And, again, think about this, like we wouldn't even have been talking about this three years ago. Right? This idea of mobile payments. Sure there's PayPal, but it really wasn't part of an ecosystem.
So, I think all of my mentors kind of embody that. And you can do that in a variety of different ways. You can do that through kind of consistent education and taking classes and all sort of stuff. Or I go back to the thing I said first is you can hire people that have just, you know, gone through it. One of my favorite examples of this is...this is a bit of an embarrassing story.
Britney: Oh, but I like embarrassing.
Charlie: Yeah. I said to my wife, like, maybe two years ago. I was like, "Look..." because I travel quite a bit. I was, "Look, you know, Alyssa, like wherever I'm on the road, I want to communicate exclusively in Snapchat, right? That's how I wanna communicate." And for me, it was like I wanna learn through osmosis. I wanna be on this platform and I wanna really dive into it. I wanna see the advertisements that pop up. And that to me that was an example of consistent education. And about three days into it, Alyssa and I are like, "Dude, this is stupid." Like, we don't get this platform. Like it doesn't resonate with us as consumers. But at the time, you know, we were 33 years old, maybe 34 at the time. And so, it's kind of just like, it's a sobering thing when you are embracing this platform that's being embraced by literally hundreds of millions of your potential customers. And you decide that it's kind of not for you as a consumer. And that's when I realized that there was a real big risk of kind of technology passing me by. Right? Like and so I think that's what I mean by constantly learning. You know, so now, there was just a Pew Research study on kind of how Generation Z consumes content. And their number one type of content consumption is video, right? Which I don't think is true for my generation where I'm kind of like a cusp millennial. And so, you know, I think that's a big deal is you have to be paying attention, even if as a consumer, it doesn't resonate with you. But as a retailer, you kind of have to see how other people are embracing content, even if it's not your personal preference.
Britney: Yeah. What do you think about the new generation of marketers who are coming in right now? I've heard that there's this whole wave of people who are millennials that are really working super hard at the very beginning of their careers, and they are wanting to end up taking like a little bit of a sabbatical kind of mid-career, instead of waiting towards the end of that more along the time that they would retire, typically. And I'm curious, how...like have you experienced any of this before? And what do you think about it? I would think that would be rather disruptive in, you know, a career trajectory and for companies in establishing loyalty and all of that. Have you had any experience with this?
Charlie: Yeah. You know, I think there is a lot of truth to the evolution of the 20-something employee. And it's an interesting question for me to answer. So, I'm 36, right? I was born in 1982. And so, I am technically, by the letter of the law, considered a millennial. But I'm pretty much like the oldest millennial that there is. And so, I think I'm contemporary enough to the younger generation of marketers, but also older enough that I've sort of seen both sides. Right? I've seen kind of how the 40-something like to work and evolve. And I've seen kind of how the 20-something like to work and evolve. And I'd say there's a couple of things that are really interesting about that. One, what you just talked about, I think really typifies the desire for flexibility, right? The desire to fits and starts, work from home, you know, work four hours one day, work 18 hours the next day. And I don't think that's necessarily a hard adjustment. I think it's important you embrace that to get good talent. And the way you do it, is you have to have extremely good communication style in a passive way. And what I mean by passive communication is like what you and I are doing right now is active communication. It's the only things that both you and I are doing. We're not checking emails, we're not reading a book. We're actively communicating. But passive communication is everything from email to slack to text message to instant message. And I think that embracing that allows you to really get to work with marketers in the younger generation.
And the other thing I would say is, the true purpose of your work is much more important to a marketer of a younger generation. Right? So, when we are actively involved in...I think of Tumi, for example. Tumi gives millions of dollars to charities a year. I think that's really meaningful to a younger marketer. And having a purpose to your work besides just selling stuff, I think is essential. So, embracing kind of flexibility in both kind of time management, vacation management and, frankly, where you are in the world. I mean am a great representation. I'm talking to you from my back porch in Seattle, Washington. And technically, there's people in Santiago, Chile, Brussels, Hong Kong, Boston and New York that I'm gonna be talking to today. I mean that's not possible unless we embrace this idea of virtual communication. So, that's one. And the other thing is just make sure your company has a real purpose beyond selling stuff. Or else, I don't think you're be able to motivate a young marketer today.
Britney: Yeah. That's totally true. And I resonate with that, as well. I think having something that you can stand behind as far as the soul of the company, not just the product of the company is super important. It's cool that there's a whole generation coming up that's moving in that direction.
Charlie: Yeah. It should be beneficial for everybody, right? It's something to really embody.
Britney: Yeah. Speaking of like having a soul, I heard on an interview that you were doing another time that Samsonite and Tumi are really moving towards sustainability. And I'm curious, what does that look like from your marketing perspective and your role?
Charlie: Yeah. You know, it's...for us, it's a matter of, you know, the corporate responsibility piece is a big deal. And, you know, look. Like let's just put the cards on the table here. A lot of our products, if you think about hardside luggage, they're plastic. Right. And that's a tough thing for sustainability wise. It's a really hard thing for us to manage. And so, what it means for us is we really wanna talk about ways that we can be, number one, using more recycled materials. And number two, almost giving our bags a second life. Right? So, that can come in the form of donation, that can come in the form of like basically, proper disposal. And so, for us, it really is a...from a marketer perspective, is about how do we get that message out? But I think the biggest challenge, and maybe challenge is a bit of a draconian word, but how do you do it in a way that it comes off as genuine? Right? Because it's so easy to as like, when you are commercially motivated, to have a marketing message come off as disingenuous, and that you're just doing this to sell stuff. And so, we are really kind of talking about how do we do it in a way that people understand the effectiveness of what we're doing? So, for example, we launched an eco-line with Samsonite that it basically, every single one of our marketing materials talks about, "Hey, when you buy this bag, it's the equivalent of taking X amount of plastic bottles out of the trash." Right? Because we're actual using recycled plastic bottles.
So, I think it's a way of taking these messages that everybody agrees with. I think everybody wants to be more environmental friendly. I think everybody wants to be more sustainable. But how do you market it in a way that people understand the true effectiveness of, you know, participating in this sort of program? It's a hard thing, you know, because I think we are all a bit jaded.
Britney: Yeah. What would you say right is the biggest challenge in the Tumi marketing funnel?
Charlie: Oh, you know, I do think it's competing with the massive marketplaces in the market. You know, like Amazon spends countless, probably in the billions of dollars in digital marketing. Like I made that number up, but it's probably not that far off. And so, what we have to do as a brand, like Tumi, is come up with ways to say, "Look, here is why you should embrace with us directly." I mean embrace us directly, engage with us directly because we're gonna do x, y, z that you won't be able to get. Now, look, we are on Amazon. Right? So, this isn't about a zero-sum game. It's about giving folks a reason to shop at Tumi stores, shop at tumi.com. And there's multiple reasons to do that. The obvious one is direct margins are better than wholesale margins, right? So, there's the, you know, the capitalist point of view. But the other thing is, when we have a direct relationship with a customer, when someone buys from us versus when someone buys from Amazon, we see that like the customer satisfaction is much higher, the lifetime value is much higher. So, there's a lot of motivations to do it beyond just the obvious margin implications. And we're doing that in a variety of ways. We are doing it with product segmentation, we are doing it with customer service options. You know, these are all areas that we have to continue to win, but it is a challenge because these guys just...the companies that are out there, they are just massive. And competing with them on a dollar for dollar basis is frankly impossible.
Britney: What acquisition and conversion tactics have been your go-tos for the last year? Which ones have failed? Which ones would you repeat again? And which ones would you like be, "I will never to that again?"
Charlie: So, look, in the U.S., specifically, paid search and Facebook are king. Right? They are king and queen, and probably prince and princess. Right? Like it's just...I think the last statistic was like 75% of marketing dollars is spent on those two channels. So, let's tell it the way it is. Probably the one that I'm most bullish on, ironically, is the offerings that are coming from Amazon. You know, if you think about what makes marketing really effective today? It's having access...being able to leverage a lot of consumer data. And no one has more consumer data than Facebook, Google, and Amazon. And so, Amazon is at sort of their infancy of the Amazon marketing suite of services. But I think they are gonna be one of the most relevant players in the space. Right? And when you look at our competitive set and you look at like the Away travels, the Louis Vuittons of the world, neither of them sell on Amazon, right? So, it's a huge opportunity for us to win in an area that we have to play in and do every well and embrace. So, that's one that I'm really bullish on.
Something that I've never being effective on. And I don't know if I'd go as short of saying that I'd never do it again, but it's just baffling to me that it hasn't worked is Pinterest. Like I feel like Pinterest has done a variety of advertising efforts. They have promoted Pins. And as a consumer, when I see the advertising, I'm like, "I feel like this should work." Right? I feel like this...but it just never has for us. And maybe we're not good at it. You know, I just think it's one of those areas that I'd love to get better at. I'd stop short of saying I'd never do it again. But that's up there.
And then the other one that's just perplexing to me is LinkedIn. You know, I think that when Microsoft acquired LinkedIn, I thought the reason they did it is they were gonna make kind of the first ever B2B auction marketplace for advertising. Right? You think about AdWords, you think about Facebook, they are all these auction marketplaces for advertising. But LinkedIn has always had these massive minimums, like $25,000 to get started, and that's just a big risk. So, that's one I'm pretty ambitious on. But I'm still trying to figure out exactly how it could work for us. So, yeah, sort of a long way.
And then, the last thing I'll say is, I still think video advertising has a long way to go. I think that the long-term view, call it 5, 10 years, we need to get better at video advertising. But I also think the YouTubes of the world have to figure out how to make it more effective, right? I think it's kind of a dual-sided marketplace there that no one is extremely good at creating content for people. And the ad options that are given to you by the marketplaces aren't great yet. So, I'm really ambitious on it, but I still think we are a ways away from being effective. And like I said, it's a combination of both our ability and the options that apply to us.
Britney: Yeah. Which conversion tactics or acquisition tactics have you noticed that you were just like, "No, we're not repeating that one." And what replaced it instead?
Charlie: So, we are not repeating that one. You know, I don't know. I don't know if we've ever actually walked away for one just because it was an unsuccessful test. There's sort of a...I mean, look, we don't do co-reg anymore. Like, I mean, I think about like co-registration, back in the day, you know, it's just anything that feels deceptive or, frankly, cheap, we're walking away from. I'll give you one that I have a real love/hate with right now, which is kind of browser notifications. Because browser notifications, I think both of us, Britney, have opted into one that we didn't mean to. And then, we got pushed a notification. We were like, "Dude, this sucks. Like, I don't want this." You know? And I never wanna be that company. But they've been pretty effective. So, that's one we're kind of playing around with, trying to do it in a customer-appropriate way. I never want anyone to feel duped. So, I guess we have walked away from co-registration. We've walked away from any like spammy affiliates. Like anything that just feels gross, is the ones that we walk away from. And we try to replace them with stuff that's a little bit more brand appropriate. It's sort of a non-answer, but it's probably the best one I can give you.
Britney: No, that totally works. And speaking of personalization, how are you guys machine learning to bring that to fruition and to increase your conversions? Do you guys do this in-house? Or is it outsourced? Or is it a blend? How is this being accomplished?
Charlie: I guess it just depends on your definition. I would say...my gut reaction would say that it's almost entirely outsourced. Like the actual algorithm creation and doing the math is entirely outsourced. What we're trying to accomplish with it, we do strategically in-house. But, you know, the actual machine learning aspect is outsourced. And we've kind of gone through this progression of the first place we used it with was messaging. There's sort of no reason to guess, if you have a good amount of data on a consumer, what you should show them next. I think using machine learning there is sort of an obvious one.
The next sort of evolution for us was on-site personalization. So, again, if you have a browser history, we sort of know what you've kind of looked at in the past, we know what you search for, etc. And that's another place that we've started to get much better. And we're probably a little bit more early in that journey, but I think we are getting pretty good.
And then, the area that we're really excited to dive into now that we are at kind of, if there's 10 steps, we're probably on step one or two, is in customer service. I really believe that machine learning in customer service is a big deal, and it's an area we can make a huge difference. Like, if you call in, right? And I can match your phone number to your email, that means I can match your phone number to your sales history. That means I should be able to predict what you wanna talk about. Right? Or at the very least like equip the customer service representative with more information than they would have had. I just think it's such a big deal. I think it's an area that if there is one thing that I would love to optimize for myself and all of our customers, it's time. I'd love to have them have less time to get what they want. And that's one area where I think machine learning is a big opportunity for us. And again, an opportunity for us to differentiate from our competitors.
Britney: Yeah. Do you have a wish list for some technology that would solve all of your acquisition and conversion dreams?
Charlie: Well, yeah.
Britney: And I say that like that's a pretty big, dreamy question. But I mean very specifically.
Charlie: I have an answer. I have an answer. So, I referenced before where Facebook, Google and Amazon have a real advantage over us. And when I say "us," I mean a brand. Right? I mean a single brand. I'm not talking about Nordstrom. I'm talking about Nike, or Tumi, or, you know, Converse. Where their advantage is is they have the ability to easily, easily tie one consumer to multiple devices. Right? So, I shop on Amazon on this computer, I shop on Amazon on this phone, I shop on Amazon on my tablet. And so, behind the scenes, Amazon is keeping a really single view of Charlie as a customer. And the reason they can do that is because I'm logged in. Like I'm logged in passively into Google on this computer right now, even though I don't even have Google open. The same is true on this phone. Gmail is on this phone running behind the scenes as we speak. That's a huge advantage for them. Because, if you think about the only way we can do that as brands, is if Britney logged into tumi.com on her computer, then logged into tumi.com on her phone, and then logged into tumi.com on her tablet. You probably didn't do that. You might have browsed on all three, but you probably didn't log in.
So, my dream is a technology that allows brands to have true single views of a customer across all their devices, including like work computer, personal computer, all sort of stuff. I think people have tried, but honestly, I think the solutions that are out there are pretty awful. Like I have yet to see one that works very well.
Britney: Yeah. Do you see technology and data science as a differentiator for Tumi against your competitors and against other like bag manufacturers in general? Is that one of your strategies at all?
Charlie: No. I mean so, look, I don't think anyone could stare at you in the face and actually say yes to that question with a straight answer. I mean because it's just...it is so easy for our competitors to get access to the exact same technologies we're all using. Right? Like so, I just kind of...I resent the implication that a brand could answer that question, "Oh, yeah, for sure." Like we're making all of our own algorithms." It's just not true. Like, I mean, like so, how you use it, is the differentiator. Right? Like the technology itself, it's a commodity, right? Like is it that hard...I always found it really funny, Britney, like four years ago when somebody would be at a presentation and be like, "Oh, yeah. We just replatformed to Demandware, which we think is a differentiator." Dude, all of your competitors are on Demandware, too. Right? So, it has nothing to do with the technology itself, it's how you utilize it. I do think we are better at utilizing it from a messaging personalization perspective. I think we can be better at a customer service, but I don't think we're there yet. So, to me it's about the utilization of technology. But the technology itself is pretty easy to access, right? I mean there's an app....and look, I don't picture a world Tumi hires 40 data scientists that specialize in machine learning and start coding our own algorithms. Like I just don't that's gonna ever gonna be our core competency.
Britney: Yeah. And looking forward, what would you say, if you could predict, or were to make a prediction, what would you say that the future in the next three to five years is for like data-driven marketing and predictive personalization, and using like artificial intelligence to implement both of those?
Charlie: So, I think that the future is everybody is gonna have to start using it to stay competitive. Like I think right now, you have a bit of an early adopter advantage. But I equate it to, you know, A/B testing. Right? If you're not doing...at this point, if you're not doing like rapid testing and iteration of your website, you're falling behind. But that wasn't always the case. It was sort of an early adopter tool at a certain point, or attribution analytics. So, while I think it might not everybody may be using it now, it will be far more ubiquitous. Like, it's gonna be something that everybody is gonna have to use and use very well to be effective. So, yeah. I do think it's gonna be massive there. And as far as the evolution is concerned, you know, it's...personalization by device is still very, very nuanced, right? Like so, in the U.S. specifically, we still see desktop conversion rates or laptop, whatever you wanna call it, really outpace that of mobile. And I think that's largely based on a combination of two things. It's based on just sort of how consumers are still shopping, right? Not everybody is buying stuff off the mobile web. And also, the performance of the websites that are being delivered on mobile are also not great at times.
So, I would really like it if I...so, something that I think we should be doing a better job of right now, the experience we give you on mobile based on that, should be a little bit different than the experience we give on desktop, and it should be personalized based on device type. So, I don't think people are great at that yet. I think like personalization is still relatively ubiquitous across device. But I think you'll see much more of a wave of device-driven personalization over time, based on both marketing and on-site performance.
Britney: Yeah, yeah. And one more question that's very forward-looking, and it's, actually, personally for you. And I'm curious just because you have seen...you've overseen a number of ecommerce companies from the ground up, and kind of really built them into what they are now. And you are...I think you had said the Chief Ecommerce Officer, right? At Tumi?
Britney: So, what does growth look like for you from here? What haven't you done?
Charlie: Well, I have this hope and it might be a misguided hope. But, you know, for the big brands in the world, like I would love... My short answer is I would love to evolve to be a CEO of a large company, right? Like so, if it's in the stars, like our CEO at Samsonite is amazing. And if in 5, 10 years he wanted to step down, I want to evolve into kind of his type of role. But in a more general answer, I find it really interesting when I see retailers replacing CEOs. And frankly, I think what you find is more of the same. Like you find your CEO is being replaced with people that led the retail team, or people that were head of wholesale. But if you look around, you really haven't seen a lot of Chief Digital Officers, or Chief eCommerce Officers taking over at leading companies. And I wonder why that is. I wonder if that's a by-product of how boards still think about things. I've always found that fact that digital leaders aren't getting offered major retail CEO roles as interesting because I don't think anything else influences a consumer's purchase more than digital. Right? Even if it happens at the store, even if it happens in a wholesale partner, even if it happens on the website itself, I just really do believe that more digital leaders could do a great job of running retail. So, it's my personal goal, it's kind of where I wanna go, but I also think it would be...the entire retail segment would benefit from retail leaders....oh, sorry. From digital leaders getting out of like this digital framework and moving to more like into true brand ownership and leadership. We'll see if it happens. I'm kind of shocked it hasn't happened yet. But then again, I'm extremely biased on the subject as well.
Britney: Yeah. All right. Well, thank you, Charlie, so much for like being with me and answering all of my questions. And I'm excited for you to see what CEO position you are able to like conquer.
Charlie: Yeah. We'll find out. But the nice part is I really...I dig where I am as well. So, not actively looking to move anywhere. But I kind of hope for retail, that there's more digital leadership that kind of gets elevated across the segment.